Netly: The Third Screen

The HP DreamScreen 100: Hands on!

Posted on: September 18, 2009

-1The good folks at HP were kind enough to send me a DreamScreen, which arrived this morning. Though I’ve only had a few hours to play with it, a few observations:

1. This is not a tablet computer. In fact, it is pretty much what it looks like—a digital picture frame on steroids. It’s meant to be propped up on a desk or night table, not held.

2. It is not a touchscreen device. You navigate via various apps with a remote. The remote is also used to input text, when called for, from an on-screen QWERTY keyboard.

3. That said, it is a computer. Once connected to your WiFi network, you can update its OS, which means it can evolve. HP plans to offer a range of apps to augment the core apps (music, video, weather, time, calendar, Pandora, Facebook and so on) that ship on the machine. Someone mentioned that the DreamScreen is like the Chumby in that regard, and the analogy is apt. UPDATE: A spokesman said that “Company executives are in the midst of considering whether it makes sense to create an app store/open the platform to third-party developers.” FWIW, I think it makes sense.

4. Facebook, and other Internet service apps, are stripped down. In the FB app, for instance, you can only do three things: Status Updates, Event invitations and photos. Of those, photo browsing is really the only thing you’d most want to do on the DreamScreen. In fact, this device, which was initially conceived of as a digital picture frame, that’s no surprise. Still, the app ought to allow me to initiate a Facebook “slide show mode” so I don’t have to manually click through images.

5. Navigation among apps is slow, but not unbearably so. Whenever you go to the Home screen, the DS needs some time to process that request. But it makes me think that the underlying processors are pretty wimpy and this is very much a version 1 type of gadget.

6. There’s probably a decent-sized pool of people who will use this device, especially as it evolves. The DS is small enough to fit on your night table, and it really seems like it wants to be there. In fact, if I were HP, I’d be pushing these devices to the big hotel chains, where they’d function splendidly as home-away-from-home personal entertainment centers.

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